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Yup, the military did jam up your garage door

Low-frequency military radios are causing thousands of garage doors across the country to open unexpectedly, or not at all.
/ Source: NBC News

Yes, it is those pesky military radios that are causing thousands of garage doors across the country to open unexpectedly, or not at all.

When a nearby military radio system operates on the same frequency as the remote controls to your garage door opener, it can paralyze your remote controls  and they may not work, even from a close distance. 

For those affected, solutions to the problem could make for interesting holiday shopping ideas, or it may just present a costly, mind numbing, dilemma.

The congressional Government Accountability Office on Thursday recommended that the Department of Defense installations that use the radios turn up the volume to communities nearby, warning them they may have problems with their garage doors.

Door jams
Since August 2005, manufacturers had received over 1,300 customer complaints of affected garage door openers that they attributed to interference from the new Land Mobile Radio system. One major manufacturer also estimated that its distributors had received between 7,000 and 10,000 complaints.

According to the GAO report, the frequency used by the DOD radio is so close to the ones used by a majority of garage door opener manufacturers that when being used it literally jams the garage doors.

But because DOD is the authorized user of the 380 MHz to 399.9 MHz spectrum, it was under no obligation, according to the FCC, to identify or mitigate potential interference devices that may also be operating in that spectrum.

Since the garage door remote controls operate on very low power, it is extremely unlikely that they interfere with military communications. But military radio systems typically operate continuously on high power — that’s why they have a much greater effect on your home garage than vice versa.

This isn’t a new problem, since remote controlled door openers have been in operation and legally using radio frequencies for more than 40 years. According to the Door and Access Systems Manufacturing Association, with the rapid growth of low-power wireless devices for consumers over the last few years — from baby monitors to cell phones — the potential for frequency conflicts has grown dramatically.

Retrofit solutions
Some manufacturers are offering retrofit kits to change the frequencies of existing garage door openers that would cost consumers $50 to $80, excluding installation.

Despite these efforts, for consumers with garage doors that do not operate, it can be difficult and costly to sort out the problem and to know how to fix it.